For my son’s first birthday last year, I made this:
If you aren’t familiar with the children’s television show Dinosaur Train on PBS, this is what the cake is supposed to resemble:
I started by baking a standard chocolate cake in a set of Wilton Choo-Choo Train cake pans a day before my son’s birthday. I poured the batter into one side of the cake pan, put the second pan on top, tied the two pans together with cooking twine, and baked the cake a little longer than the recipe recommended (roughly 7 to 10 minutes more). Once finished, I took the pans out of the oven and let everything cool.
The next day, I took the cake out of the pans, carefully set it on a cardboard cake circle and turntable, and decorated it with icing using a star tip. I bought the icing at my local grocery store, and my star tip attached directly to the tube.
I had never decorated a cake before that day, so it took me three hours to get all of the icing onto the cake. It wasn’t difficult, but I did have to continually reference the image I’d printed of the train from the internet. I had considered making miniature Buddy and Tiny characters out of fondant icing (the way they do on all the fancy cake shows), but since it took me so long to ice the cake, I just put some dinosaur figures on the turntable and called it done.
Honestly, I was incredibly surprised by how simple the cake was to make. Sure, it took some time, but it wasn’t hard like I thought it might be. And, when I did mess up, I just wiped off the mistake with the tip of a butter knife and redid the area. If you’ve wanted to make a fancy birthday cake but were nervous to try, I suggest going for it. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a funny story out of the experience and rush to your local bakery to buy a replacement. Best case scenario, you’ll get an amazing cake.